Understanding the difference between sympathy and empathy is like knowing when to use an apostrophe in “they’re” or “you’re.” It sounds simple, but when it’s done wrong everyone notices.
Financial situations leading to a call from a debt collector can bring out a lot of feelings in consumers. Your response is an important part of building rapport, or trust, with the consumer.
According to sales and negotiation experts, empathy is one essential ingredient in the recipe for success in influencing consumers, but it’s a technique that takes practice.
Empathy is different from sympathy and therein lies the challenge. ACA International’s Compliance Education Specialist Angela Czerlanis breaks it down in her Collection Tips article in the July issue of Collector magazine.
Sympathy is the act of sharing someone’s feelings or interests. Most people associate sympathy with feelings of sadness, as in, “My sympathies to you on the passing of your pet.” Sympathy can also mean loyalty or shared opinions, as in, “As a lifelong baseball fan, her sympathies are with all the Little League kids on beautiful, sunny afternoons.”
Empathy is when you identify with someone’s feelings, thoughts or attitudes. Like sympathy, we often associate feelings of empathy with something sad or difficult. But empathy goes beyond just feeling bad or sorry for the other person.
Empathy adds some immersion, or action, on the part of the listener. When a person practices empathy, they are capable of seeing the world through the other person’s eyes and imagining what it’s like to be that person.
When you show genuine empathy—acting with care and compassion in service to others—you will be able to present solutions that are customized for the consumer. This can give you and your company an edge.
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